Mission

Solar Austin’s mission is to accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy in Central Texas to build a healthy community and a strong local economy.

Latest Posts

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Smart Inverters and Distributed Energy Resources for a Smarter Grid

As solar and other renewable energy technologies spread further throughout society, effectively connecting these distributed means of generation to current transmission infrastructure and expanding and modernizing the grid become ever more pressing issues. Solar Austin is excited to present our July Happy Hour speaker, Raghu Belur, the co-cofounder of Enphase, who will tell us more about the exciting advancements in smart inverter, smart grid, and distributed energy resources technology, particularly as related to the residential market. Enphase has also generously provided for food and drinks at this month’s happy hour.

July 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten 
1607 San Jacinto St.
 
Raghu has more than 20 years of experience in the clean energy and high technology industries. Prior to Enphase, he developed high-speed optical communication technology for Cerent, which was later acquired by Cisco Systems for $7 billion. Before Cerent, Raghu was an engineer at the Indian Institute of Science, where he played a key role in the development of an alternative energy gasification system. He co-founded Enphase Energy with Martin Fornage in 2006.  Raghu has a MSEE from Texas A&M University and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
  
Because solar and wind energy are both distributed and intermittent, power generated from these sources must be closely monitored in order to ensure reliability of the electric grid and efficient delivery of electricity. This means that cutting-edge technology must be used to upgrade old transmission infrastructure. Solar panel systems, however, require an additional layer of complexity because they only produce direct current electricity. These systems are connected to inverters, which convert the electricity produced to alternating current so that it can be fed into a specific building’s electric system or into the local grid. Although inverters can be expensive and add further complexity to an electric system, “smart” inverters and other new technology can allow us to control and automate specific electrical systems and extremely fine resolution of the grid to make the grid more resilient.
 
Smarter inverters and other new transmission infrastructure can help renewable resources to further penetrate into the market and promulgate throughout the grid—an essential foundation for expanding renewable energy generation to fight air pollution and climate change, mushroom the number of local clean energy jobs, and provide solar to even more people.

June Happy Hour: Sustainable Design & Architecture

Contemporary architectural design incorporates many new innovations to reduce energy usage and improve overall sustainability of new projects.
 
Next Tuesday Jonathan Smith, Associate Partner at the architecture firm Lake Flato, will recount various sustainable design features, including solar-readiness, that are employed in projects right now like the new Austin Central Library.
 
Jonathan’s projects include the Austin Central Library, which will power 1/3 of its energy usage from rooftop solar panels, and the mixed-use, sustainably-minded development Sylvan Thirty in Dallas. He will discuss many of the challenges and opportunities of integrated design of solar and other energy innovations within architecture, so this is a great opportunity for small business owners, home owners, and other Austin constituents who hope to incorporate solar, energy efficiency, and other innovations into new developments.
 
Tuesday, June 27, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto Blvd
 
Join us to learn about the most up-to-date and effective integrated design features happening in our very own community and how you can become more involved.

May Happy Hour: Austin Solar Policy Update

Austin Energy has been a leader on renewable energy adoption, including distributed solar for many years.  That’s both because of leadership at the utility and the Austin City Council and because of public demand for progressive energy policies.

That’s the beauty of having a democratically controlled electric utility – it’s responsive to the public.  That benefit comes with the responsibility to stay engaged.  And that’s a role we play at Solar Austin – helping people learn about the benefits of solar and then getting involved to continue improving local policies and programs to keep solar growing in the Austin area. 

Solar Austin was involved in getting the solar rebate program started at Austin Energy and we’ve worked to ensure a steady budget for the solar programs over the years.

There are several potential changes to Austin solar policies and programs in the works.  Join us to learn what we’re working on and how you can get involved.

Whether you work in the solar industry, have solar on your home or just think we need to use more solar to reduce our impact on the environment and create local jobs – we want you to get involved.

May 23, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP

You’ll hear from the Solar Austin board of directors about our vision for several policies and programs:

  • Commercial Value of Solar tariff
  • Solar for affordable housing
  • Solar for low-income customers in single-family homes
  • Solar goals
  • Solar rebates and performance-based incentives

Now is the time to get active.

 

April Happy Hour: How to Go Solar in the 21st Century

The solar power market has already moved greatly through its early development: from the isolated labs of researchers and inventors, the tinkering workshops of hobbyists, the reclusive sites of off-the-grid applications, the strident efforts of green activists, to the singular homes of early adopters, to wall street’s long-term investors, and more recently, to the doorstep offering. In this ever-expanding industry, there continues to be new horizons, each bigger than the last. 

In this talk, industry experts convened by Solar Austin will discuss how solar power solutions in the 21st century are “crossing the chasm” to mass adoption.

Featuring:
 Stan Pipkin: LighthouseSolar
 Katharine Beisner: Consultant (software, SunPower, CleanTX)
 Mark Begert: Mapdwell, Meridian (Finance)
 Dave Dixon: Native
 Allison Mond: GreenTechMedia (via Skype)

April 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP

What new ways of acquiring solar power are emerging? Where is the innovation? How do we make the process simpler? When will it show up on new construction? And what are the evolving roles and blind spots of Utilities, Installers, technology manufacturers, policy makers, bankers and the marketplace?

Building off a similar talk at a recent Solar Austin speakers series, we’ll take a tour of what’s to come and answer audience questions about how to go solar effectively while maintaining the inherent promise that solar can deliver a cleaner, more affordable and more resilient future of electricity.

March Happy Hour – Solar for Low-Income Customers

SolarHost San AntonioThere was a time when solar energy was only accessible to those with cash on hand to buy a system outright. Then financing for solar became common place and middle income people with decent credit scores could go solar without paying up front. Now, there is finally a focus on making solar accessible for low-income residents as well. San Antonio’s electric utility – CPS – has launched an innovative new program called Solar Host that allows customers to benefit from solar without making any investment.

At the same time, CPS has rolled out its first community solar program. The program – called Roofless Solar – is ideal for customers who want go solar, but don’t have a suitable roof or other space on their own property. With community solar, a shaded roof or a roof in need of repair is no longer a barrier to going solar.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 28 (5:30 – 8:00 p.m.)

WHERE: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin

RSVP: Please RSVP and make a donation, if you wish to support our work.

SPEAKERS: CPS is working with a private developer to implement the Solar Host program, so both Rick Luna from CPS and Tuan Pham from PowerFin Partners will speak at our happy hour.

Rick LunaRick Luna is Sr. Manager, Product Development for CPS Energy. Rick oversees a program portfolio that includes a variety of solar, demand response and energy efficiency offerings for residential and commercial customers. Rick’s team is instrumental in achieving the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP) goal of reducing demand by 771 MW by 2020. Rick’s work has included account management, rate design and economic development. He holds a B.A. in economics from Columbia University.

Tuan PhamTuan Pham is the head of PowerFin, a solar development, financing, and operating company, with offices in Austin and San Antonio. Throughout his career, Tuan has focused on areas where energy and finance converge. Prior to his role in business development at HelioVolt, a thin-film solar company, Tuan covered energy and chemical companies at Morgan Stanley and Banc of America Securities in New York. Tuan’s experience also includes time at the Austin Clean Energy Incubator and Strategic Value Partners, a $5 billion hedge fund, where he served as a Director overseeing energy and industrial investments. Tuan also served on the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee, a City Council-appointed committee to devise a plan for citywide solar development.